Monday, January 29, 2007

Ah, yes, where was I?

Ok. So I am hypothyroid, which goes some way to explaining why I've felt like a plate of cold mouldy porridge for the last four years. What it doesn't explain is why this was not picked up at my previous blood test in April 2005, nor why Dr Singsong thought that what I really needed was anti-depressants when I came to him with a genuine and the same medical problem. Needless to say, I now request "anybody BUT Dr Singsong" when I ring for an appointment. Useless git.

Peter the homeless youth has lived a kind of accelerated two years in the last two weeks. As in: moved in; got job at that burger place where I found him; was nagged into washing clothes; was subliminally messaged into taking daily shower; was bullied into seeking educational with which to keep his capacious yet woefully underused brain active; was nagged about chores (none of which he did); broke off his engagement to his seventeen-year old girlfriend; lost his job, reportedly due to swearing at a fellow member of staff who squirted floor cleaner in his face; moved out to live in a house with a mate in Bridgwater.

The last 24 hours in particularly were especially surreal. Yesterday morning we discovered he'd lost his job at closing time the previous evening. Yesterday evening he had an appointment for 9am this morning at the YMCA in Exeter. This morning, after he failed to appear by the time The Boff left with Sim (Hen being off for the day with a heavy cold), it transpired that he had found a room in a house in Bridgwater where his friend is currently living.

This lunchtime I gave him a tenner to buy his train ticket to Bridgwater, drove him to the station and bade him farewell, telling that I would not pick him up again if I saw him in the street again. He assured me that the next I heard from him, he would be at university, and thanked me for the chance to get his life back on track.

The details, for those who like that sort of thing (just what's wrong with the abstract, I ask you?):
Taken into care at 6
Sent by social worker who forfeited his job for this to an independent school, after an IQ test at 10 revealed him to be highly intelligent (little trace of that now beyond a pervasive sense of his own importance)
Left school at 16 with a bunch of grades A and A* at GCSE
Worked in various horsey places for two years, still in the care of social services
Discharged in no uncertain terms by social services at 18 (18 months ago)
Began drifting
Returned to his father's house in London
Was threatened with a knife by his father, left and hitched his way to the South West where he has "friends" (although clearly not the kind of friends who actually help you)
Ended up in Exeter on the streets, unable to access any services as he had no address
Told by Exeter Council that he will be entitled to access none of their services until he's become a local (luckily only 6 months for their purposes rather than the 30 years it takes most people- oh- we're talking law, rather than social integration?)

Suffice to say that our household is not entirely set up for inhabitation by a willful young adult with erratic habits and little desire to please. I was glad to get him off the streets (especially before a cold snap such as we had last week), and to be able to help shove him back onto some path of independence, but I am overwhelmingly glad that he's gone.

He wasn't/ isn't unpleasant, just not very domesticated. I would imagine that when your only experience of family life is abuse and neglect, your view of what a family can be would be pretty warped. I just hope he finds his way in the long-term. I think I did what I could.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"I'm rescued too", he said, slightly whistfully.

I'd just finished introducing him to my menagerie and explaining their provenance.

I found him outside a well-known burger bar franchise- not the golden arches, the other one.

Dill had shut her fingers in a door at school. She was feeling a little sorry for herself, and her teacher thought she might need medical attention. It was on my birthday. I had anticipated spending the day alone, doing a test translation and making a trip to the bank.

The test piece is still not done now.

"I'm glad I shut my fingers in the door", announced Dill as she vaulted into the car. I can spend your birthday with you like this".

We went into Exeter to pay in the cheques. It was a tad before lunch, and Dill hadn't had time for her sandwich. I had a voucher in my pocket, we were headed for that burger place. She blackmailed me with the bruised fingers.

So we passed him on the way in. He was sitting on the bench just outside the burger joint. He looked up into the faces of passers-by, inquisitively. Clean, short kempt hair, clean-shaven. Sitting down having a cup of coffee, I thought.

Except that after we'd consumed our Angus burgers, sitting on the tall bar stools in the front window, we became aware of the fact that he was still there. He was lying down on the bench by now, and I suddenly noticed that he had his head on a kit bag, and that beneath the bench was a battered over-stuffed suitcase.

Dill turned to me and asked me how old I thought he was. About fourteen or fifteen, we both decided.

"He might have run away from home," said Dill.

Bloody hell, you're probably right, I thought.

I had to go out to investigate.


And that's how we ended up with a fourth child for a short time. And he is 19, before anybody thinks I am harbouring a runaway.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What a week.

Rescue Boy is doing well- has a job and is investigating rooms in Exeter.

Persephone's ex's harassing access case was on Friday. He had legal representation, having lied to the Legal Aid board about his income and/ or assets; Persephone represented herself, as she earns 300 pounds too much per month to qualify, despite the fact that she alone pays for the children.

As it turns out, this was a good thing, as the @rsehole couldn't stop himself from interrupting her to shout out answers at the judge, and was told to shut his cakehole a few times by both the judge and his own solicitor. He also tried to intimidate Persephone in the court by leaning back and glaring at her behind his solicitor's back, until she knocked him on the leg to call him to order. He left the court without any kind of resolution, and the court went (luckily) very much in Persephone's favour.

She presented the facts of the case very articulately, and the judge agreed that the access case and the harassment and threats criminal case hanging over psycho ex's head were so intricately linked that he couldn't decide anything until after resolution of the criminal case. Which buys my sister and the children another six months' grace, followed hopefully by another few months while a court-apppointed social worker draws up a report. This means that Trumpkin and Dwarflet could be 7 and 5 before they even have to see their father again, if at all, and even then it should be in a supervised setting.

Sim is at home today sick, I am having ongoing medical tests (which seem to be zooming in on the thyroid at the moment), Hen is having repeated visits to the orthopaedic clinic, I have a test piece to do (a paid one!) for an agency, dentists' visits, horn lessons, Spanish lessons for me to teach at Dill's school. I wonder that I ever have time to do any actual work...

later Did I mention the tanker that a French tug thoughtfully decided to run aground on the Devon coast?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

This time, she's really done it... 

Well, if I told you what I've done, you'd think I was completely barking, so I won't tell you. Until after it's over, maybe. Even then, maybe not. Think Colin. With less hair.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Erm, so, well, it might be that it is my birthday today. It is an age neatly divisible by 3, and looks a lot older if you turn it upside down.

We celebrated the last day of my being *some age or other* by going for a long walk on Dartmoor. The Boff seems to think that his birthday is the same day as my last day of being *some age or other*, so we went to the pub in Widdecombe in the Moor, followed by a long walk during which we had an obligatory visit to a rope swing over a clear, fast-running stream that the Boff and Sim found on a previous trip. Two of the five of us fell in to the stream. I won't say which two. The stream was rather damp, as were the insides of certain people's wellies, er, I'm told.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bloghuh? no 5 

The case was bloody adjourned. Until bloody June. So Persephone drove all the way to the court for nothing, and still has no resolution.

The only upside: he's still under the same bail conditions, and was seen by Persephone "to look distinctly sheepish" in court. Serves the stupid sod right.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

You'll get no more overt mystification from me until Friday I'm afraid, since I'm leaving for 46 hours to look after Trumpkin and Dwarflet 200 miles away, while Persephone goes off to be a witness in the case against the Psycho ex. All fun fun fun here. Wish her well- the b*stard ought at least to get an extended restraining order, compulsory anger management course, and parenting course.

Oh actually, to hell with it- have a mystery anyway, without the trimmings. It is still possible that he may get off scott-free*. That mystifies me.


*Unlike Alan, who isn't Scott-free... :)

Bloghuh? part 3 

"I'll just have a nice [read- nasty Maxwell House instant- ed] cup of coffee to send me off to sleep", my grandmother used to say.


What I am continually mystified by is how people like my mad old tiny granny, and my friend, can drink coffee at any time of the day or night, yet I have oh so carefully time my one cup a day to allow me to get to sleep before 3am?

Read more about things that mystify others at participating Bloghuh? blogs this week:

Blue Witch
bob's yer uncle
Changing Places
In the Aquarium
Kitchen Witch
La Que Sabe
London Daily Photo
Purple Pen
Quixotic Evil
Santiago Dreaming
Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Here's my latest Bloghuh? ponder.

Why have we had to push several of the chickens out of the tree they insist on perching in, and shoo them into the coop, every single evening for three months? Just what is wrong with them? Do they perchance enjoy sitting cold and miserable in a tree in the driving rain, when three feet sits a cosy coop with food, company and light?

Read more about things that mystify others at participating Bloghuh? blogs this week:


Blue Witch

bob's yer uncle

Changing Places



Kitchen Witch

La Que Sabe

Purple Pen

Quixotic Evil

Santiago Dreaming

Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?

ps: BW- I can't seem to be able to capture that question mark gif to download, so am pinching your bandwidth am failing dismally at pinching your bandwidth (bastard's not appearing on the page). Sowwy. Could you possibly forward the slippery little sod to me please?

Monday, January 08, 2007

So let me get this right.

A country- let's say a large, influential country run by a puppet self-appointed dictator, wants to make war on another country.

They run out of soldiers willing to risk their necks in this dangerous other country, so they begin recruiting young people with nothing to lose, in impoverished and low employment areas.

They ship them out to the country they've invaded, where many of them are shot and killed.

Result: they cut youth unemployment, clear up dodgy city centres, and permanently get rid of a section of the troublesome underclass in a way they never could if they'd stayed at home. And the only cost is borne by that war-torn country of people who can't even vote in any meaningful way.

It has the hallmarks of Macchiavellian genius. I'll bet the shaved ape didn't come up with it on his own...


One of the things that mystifies me greatly is how people in authority (say, in government) can come over all censorious and authoritarian when telling others what to do (say, where to send their children to school), yet do exactly what they please by exploiting loopholes and their generous salaries to make choices many people cannot afford....and still be voted for repeatedly.

I would love to know how we can be stupid enough to keep bringing in people who a) do not have the courage of their own convictions, are b) too stupid to relate their own situation to that of the people they govern, and c) are hypocritical enough to believe in exceptions for them but not for the little people.

Read more about things that mystify others at participating Bloghuh? blogs this week:


Blue Witch

bob's yer uncle



Kitchen Witch

Purple Pen

Santiago Dreaming

Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Walk a mile... 

I've been thinking a lot recently about desire paths- those seemingly whimsical meandering ways that people employ to get from A to B via Z. It seems to me that however irrational such a path may seem to others, there must surely be a reason for a kink, a deviation, or a sudden turn. There seem to be two types of path: the one planned, laid down and enforced by signs, tarmac and laws; and the one created by whimsy, the desire path. The first tends to used out of fear, the second out of need or convenience. Sensible path surfacers will incorporate the path of desire

A path, you see, is really only a piece of normal earth surface, which has arbitrarily been elected as a way by animals or people. A path relies on habit, and the need to follow. A path is not made but arises. The impenetrable forest gradually acquires ways. Every foot print in the mud, every stick swung at brambles, every crushed tuft of grass furthers the tracing of the path.

Sometimes obstacles may intervene.

Maybe one day, the day the path first began its process, a small dead creature lay on the ground, and the adventurer decided not to sully their footwear. Maybe a rock blocked the way, later removed by someone. Maybe a now long-dead and decayed tree, bush or bramble patch caused a deviation in the path. Maybe a now-drained puddle intervened, forcing the walker into the bank or forest on either side. Maybe a bin stood in a particular place, or an alarming tramp sleeping on a park bench caused passersby to give him a wide berth. Maybe a destination now long-forgotten attracted the path treader.

Yet long after the vestiges and memory of these things have disappeared, the path continues its untroubled meander.

And it occurred to me that these desire paths, kinks and all, and irrational as they seem, all have a reason. They have reasons and causes we may no longer be able to see, but that are as relevant in their effect on the trace of the path now as they ever were.

And in many respects, these paths are like our lives. Others may appear to the outside observer to have made wrong-headed or irrational decisions, to have taken whimsical and aberrant by-ways, to have deviated, hesitated or double back for no reason. Until we walk someone else's path, we cannot see what the obstacles were, or how big they were at the time. We can only see the effects, and marvel or deplore them depending on our level of tolerance and judgment.

We can no more know what contributed to a person's drug or drink problems, to their poor choice of life partners, to their desperate financial situation or inability to maintain a stable lifestyle, than we can truly tread their path.

Because in many respects, we are all and always treading our own paths for the very first time. We may look about and see other people's; we may even walk a short way in someone else's tracks, but rarely will someone else's path suit us entirely and for ever.

That is the truly exhilarating thing about this life of ours: we may reinvent ourselves forever.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The girls have been nomadic since we returned from Canada. It's been two years, but they are still loathe to spend more than a few nights sleeping in the same place.

We must have traumatised them with all our moves and extended camping holidays, because they rarely sleep in a bed these days, and if they do, they endure a level of discomfort guaranteed to preclude sleep in normal people, whiffling serenely head to toe or side by side in the single bed of one girl or the other.

Their favourite places so far include their brother's hard bedroom floor, the passageway outside Hen's room, the floor of Dill's room at its narrowest, where they have barely a foot and a half of space each in width. They have spent weeks on the music room sofa bed, several days lodged behind the sofa in the living room, in a den roofed with sofa cushions, always buried deep in piles of pillows and quilts.

And now the habit is spreading to their friends.

One little schoolfriend was cunningly dissuaded from spending the night outside his own bedroom, in imitation of Hen and Dill, by his mother's swift ban on using any bedding there other than the cat blanket. This did not deter him from sleeping the whole night there, but did put him off a second night, as he woke up stiff and cold.

Sim, meanwhile, whilst spending most nights in his own bed, nurses a secret desire to sleep in the bath, as he once had to during a party.

He and his friend Thumb still see each other regularly during the holidays, even though Thumb has moved away. They have an ongoing competition running to see who can sleep in the most uncomfortable possible position. I once found Thumb asleep on the floor at midnight, fully clothed including shoes, head on his kit bag, under the mattress we'd put out for him, quilt neglected some way away. I nearly covered him over, but decided that it would be unkind to make him lose the competition.

What I really don't understand is why children would want to sleep in such uncomfortable conditions. It may be a perverse sense of adventure, or the fact that they sleep easily at their ages, or that it is just plain fun, but I do so wish they wouldn't insist on sleeping in front of the bathroom door...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Here's an example of what I was saying about low rates for US translators a few weeks ago: I was sent a job to tender for. 20,000 words at a rate of $0.03 per word- total for job $600, for an agricultural contract (ie legal). To which my answer is: Fergeddaboutit.

As I explained a couple of months ago to a Canadian agency that thought $0.07 per word a thoroughly good rate: average wage in the UK is 20,000 quids a year, ie pretty much 40,000 in either US or Canadian dollars.

At the rate they were quoting me, and even if I worked 40 hour weeks, 50 weeks of the year, I'd still only end up with 17,000 pounds, which frankly is only just a living wage here. And we're talking "living in a bedsit and eating beans a lot" living wage, not knees-up mother brown let's dance living wage.

This is one of the situations where globalisation will always operate against Europe- everything costs more here, not only in currency, but also in terms of proportion of income.

A car that costs 20,000 here could be purchased for half that much in dollars. Clothes are expensive. Fruit and veg are expensive. Taxes are high (our local tax alone is over 2000 pounds a year, and the cheapest band is well over 1,000 pounds a year; income tax is at least 22% of your income, rising to 40% is you earn over a slightly decent wage (38,000 pounds a year at the moment). Petrol, is well, astronomically expensive, even if the price has recently dropped from nearly 1 pound a litre three months ago, to around 87p a litre. (yes, North American folks- that's around $2 a quart!)

All this to say that I cannot afford to compete with US translators if they sell themselves that cheaply. A client wanting a translation done for 3$C a word would have to not want an English English translation. The only advantage I have is my Englishness, and the speed that comes from not having to look much up. In Europe, being English is luckily still an advantage, particularly when it comes to EU documents which have to be rendered into UK English.

I think that maybe the French are shooting themselves in the foot by refusing to get out their computer for less than what would be considered an extremely advantageous rate in the UK (hardly any French translators will work for less than 0.14 euros a word, and some charge up to 0.25 per word (so I would have earned 1 shiny two-tone euro just for typing those last four words... if I charged such exalted rates, which alas *gritted teeth* I do not), but I do understand their reasoning. They have extortionate taxes- the self-employed are required to hand over up to 75% of their income for the social protection of the employed, without themselves benefiting from any job security, sick cover or maternity benefits.

This is why I turn down bargain basement rates. Firstly because even though it is a second income, I can't afford to work at those rates; and secondly, because it is disloyal to fellow translators to accept work at ridiculously low rates.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How did we end with a dog that's signed the pledge? Turning his nose up at perfectly good Pimms. Perhaps he doesn't like it accidentally cut with water either.

And who puts water into lemonade bottles and places them next to bona fide bottles of lemonade?

And how the heck did those four (one stillborn) baby guinea pigs happen? And will any more of them produce virgin births?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sorry everyone. I don't quite know what happened there. Three days at Ma-in-law's, followed by a couple of days back at home, followed by three days helping Persephone to move house. The Psycho ex's court case is happening in the next couple of weeks, with the access case he's filed (doubtless for nefarious purposes) the week after. January 2007 is going to be a busy month, I fear.

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